Beau Waters denouement

This was the introduction to a piece I wrote about a Round 8 Eagles game against the Saints, that was fortunately published in the 2012 Almanac book.

I love Beau Waters.  There, I’ve said it.  The Avenging Eagle needn’t worry.  Julia and Tony won’t let us marry.  Beau played his 100th game in 9 seasons in last week’s loss to the Bombers.  A series of elbow dislocations and fractures threatened to end his career, but he is back to career best form now.  Who could forget his lone handed Master Class against the Cats in our preliminary final drubbing last year?  He is famous for crazy brave marks running back into packs, like those saving gems as a 20yo in the last quarter of the 2006 GF.

But above all I love what he represents as a person.  Self-confessed high school drop-kick, who slept on friend’s couches and was close to two school friends and West Adelaide colts team mates killed in a tragic car accident.  He has grasped every opportunity that life has subsequently given him, and is now a voracious reader, autodidact and studying for an MBA.

We went to the game with my mate Tony, who has done it similarly tough, and now devotes a lot of time to volunteering with the Sallies and helping other blokes doing it tough.  When I hear his story I wonder that he’s not dead.  When I hear him talk about he does with his life, I think he deserves public recognition – an award or something.  He and Beau are the sort of blokes you would like next to you in a foxhole.

 

Beau Waters, my favourite current day footballer retired yesterday.  I liked him as a footballer.  Hard, but always with eyes for the ball not the opponent.  Courageous to a fault.  Repeated collision injuries to shoulder and elbow ended his on-field career.

Beautiful hands and a great mark and timer of his leap for a medium-sized player.  I always thought he might end up as a forward as his leg speed diminished.  My lasting memory is that running backward, goal saving mark in the tight last quarter of the 2006 Grand Final.  That was his trademark.  There were many others, but none so important.  Mike Sheahan gave him a vote in the Norm Smith for his selfless acts as a 20 year old in that narrow Grand Final win.

He was a piercing, generally accurate left footer, always looking to set up the attack from defence.  His career had a final bloom in 2012 when the Eagles lost a close semi-final on the MCG to Collingwood, and Waters was rewarded with All-Australian selection.

At the time I thought it was the start of things to come, but as Beau’s body repeatedly broke down so did the team’s form and attitude.  Seen in retrospect, perhaps not a coincidence.

My final on-field memory is of how injury and time studying the modern game from the stands affected his play.  In sporadic appearances over the last 2 seasons his leg speed and judgement were inevitably rusty.  But his mind grew sharper as his skills were blunted.

Running it out of defence there was no longer the ‘blast it down the line’ to the marking targets.  He had observed that zones made that a mug’s game, and running it out was now the only way to get over the massed trenches of Ross man’s land.  A quick glance and his kick was generally at 45° to a team mate running parallel on the far side.  By the end, his kick was often as not a shank and the home crowd would roar their disapproval and wonder why we persisted with a fading star.

Fans look backward and want the glories of yesterday replayed.  But life and footy tactics march relentlessly forward.  Yesterday’s strategy was tomorrow’s predictability.

Beau had learned that and I loved him for it, however flawed his execution became.  It was the game plan we needed to become a serious team again.

I doubt that we will see him in the media or as a coach.  He is too inquisitive and capable for that.  New horizons; not reliving past glories for him I suspect.  He has many academic and business mentors to give him opportunities and benefit from his fierce intellect.  Whoever he goes to work for – buy shares.

Last August the Avenging Eagle and I went to the theatre to see a Chekhov play “The Seagull”.  Now footballers are not unknown at the theatre.  Jersey Boys and Les Mis premieres.  Freebies and eye-candy photos on the red carpet for the social pages.  We were there to expand our horizons (never seen Chekhov, heard he can play a bit) and I looked around as we took our seats observing a crew-cutted strong-looking bloke with an attractive blonde a few rows back.

“Jeez that looks like Beau Waters,” I said to the Avenging Eagle.  But I arrogantly thought “nah it can’t be, I know he’s got an enquiring mind, but footballers don’t go for 19th century Russians”.  Closer inspection at intermission revealed that this one did.

He never played another game for the Eagles.  120 games in 12 years on the Eagles list says it all for him as a player.  But that was the least of him.  He won the AFL’s Jim Stynes Award for Community Leadership in 2014 for his work with the WA Cancer Council, so injury never diminished his off-field energy.

The product of several broken homes who couch-surfed through school and didn’t finish Year 12, Beau’s inquisitive nature and love of learning first came to the fore over long hours chewing the fat with Eagles club doctor Rod Moore when he missed the entire 2005 season with osteitis pubis.  A 2012 profile by Ray Wilson in the West Australian quoted him:

 

“We started talking about all issues shallow and deep,” Waters said.  “He mentioned a word once and I asked him what it meant.  He said “go and look it up” and over the next four or five years we commonly bounced words or phrases off each other to try and stump each other.”

While a few of his favourites include ubiquitous and loquacious, not to mention transmogrify, when he looked in the mirror he saw “erratic” but he wanted “balanced”.  There is a clear favourite in his vocabulary though, and appropriately it’s a palindrome.  Hannah, the woman he met in Melbourne in June 2007.  She helped change the reflection.

 

“Denouement” – I think he would appreciate that.

Comments

  1. G’day Peter,

    Once again I realise that footy is high contact sport. It’s very sad that Waters ended his career in such circumstance. The 18-month absent from playing a game must be very frustrating for him.

    Taking marks with medium sized body is so great. I guess he is so talented.

    I wish all the best to you and Waters.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Wonderful tribute PB,
    The Beau Waters playbook (on and off field) could be given to young footballers as something to aspire to. Why not take in a bit of Chekhov when having a break from the Play Station?

  3. Waters was to the Eagles what Scotty Burns was to Collingwood.

  4. Neil Anderson says:

    Loved the quote from Ray Wilson. Very poetic. He was probably at the Chekhov play as well.
    With just a little bit more practice he could try the big-time and have a crack at writing for the Almanac.

  5. David Zampatti says:

    Sadly, Beau (who does seem a decent enough bloke) has never been the same since he tried to run through Matt de Boer a few years ago and discovered what a hard man really is.
    The look on Water’s face as he picked itself off the floor was priceless. Part humiliation, part curiosity. Like someone had used a word he didn’t know the meaning of.
    I suspect that Beau’s spirit was willing, but the body said “No way am I letting you play the Dockers again”.

  6. It seemed wrong when they said “retiring footballer Beau Waters”…not his style.

  7. Luke Reynolds says:

    His retirement only got brief mentions on this side of the continent, so great to read a fantastic tribute of Beau Waters from his biggest fan. Thanks Peter.

Leave a Comment

*